The Desert Rose – One of my Favorite Things

DKirkpatrick desert rose Zia pendantDesert Roses – aka Sand Rose, Rose Rock, Selenite rose, Gypsum Rose, Barite Rose Desert Rose is the name given to rosette formations of the minerals gypsum and barite with sand inclusions. The rosette crystal habit tends to occur when the crystals form in arid sandy conditions, such as the evaporation of a shallow salt basin.    Desert roses are crystal-like formations and may have a rose shape or be multiple plates adjoining at angles or the formations may look like a cluster of cereal flakes.

They can look like flowers that have turned to stone and they take on the color of the sand because Selenite (gypsum) is a fibrous mineral and fine sand becomes trapped between the fibers as it crystallizes.  These flowers are relatively soft with a Mohs hardness of 2.    My family settled in the Wichita Kansas area on a land grant farm in the 1800s.   I can tell you that there is a lot of gypsum in Kansas and Oklahoma and it’s in all the ground water, too.   My aunt’s coffee pot had all sorts of fascinating deposits inside!

This pendant is an example of an Oklahoma gypsum or barite rose.   The barite or gypsum rose is one of Oklahoma’s most distinctive and recognizable rocks and became the state rock in 1967. These rose rocks occur in a narrow band through central OK. Oklahoma rose rocks have a distinctive shape that sets them apart from desert roses in general.  Oklahoma’s rose rocks formed 250 million years ago (Permian), when western and central Oklahoma was covered by a shallow sea. As the sea retreated, barite precipitated out of the water and crystallized around grains of quartz sand.   The color ranges from gray to brown.

detail desert roseThis gypsum rose has a coating of titanium deposited on it.   This stone caught my eye the first time I saw it!   I had to design a piece of jewelry that used it and since I had just moved to New Mexico, I created a Zia pendant (the Zia is New Mexico’s state symbol) with the rose as the focal highlight.    When viewed from the back side, you can see that underneath the titanium electro-deposit, the rose is a reddish brown.


Here are links to articles about Gypsum and Barite roses: